Desperate to get home Chennai

Anxious migrant workers hit the road in city

An agonising wait: A large group of migrant workers waiting for information about the next train to their home State near the Chennai Central railway station on Sunday.

An agonising wait: A large group of migrant workers waiting for information about the next train to their home State near the Chennai Central railway station on Sunday.   | Photo Credit: R_Ragu

Officials assure them of transport, amid protests at a several centres

Sunday saw hundreds of migrants wait in a long queue near the Central Railway Station in the city to get a place in a train that may take days or even weeks to arrive even as the State government extended the lockdown till May 31.

While the government has facilitated the return of 55,000 migrant workers to their homes in special trains from various cities, over 15,000 were sent to their native places from Chennai alone. And, the number of migrant workers on the city's roads swelled after the extension of lockdown on Sunday. There were protests by migrant workers at three places in the city.

As the Greater Chennai Corporation officials expect to send about 50,000 more from the city in the coming months, the civic body may find itself in a tight spot in the coming weeks as over a lakh of them could come from neighbouring districts as well in search of the train back home.

At present, only the Corporation has access to trains leaving the city and has been sending those sheltered in its camps in batches to various States. Without this knowledge, migrants keep swamping the railway station.

On Sunday, thousands of workers from various sectors, mainly the construction industry, hit the streets either on their own, mostly without wages and food. There were three protests in the city with migrant workers from Assam demanding that they be sent home at the earliest.

Vigil stepped up

The police increased the security to prevent any untoward incident given the volatile situation and top police officers held talks with those from Assam. According to the migrants, they were jobless and evicted from rented houses as they could not pay due to lockdown. Already 1,500 labourers, who were staying in Guru Nanak College, have been sent to Assam by train on Friday night.

The others in Dr. Ambedkar Law University, Taramani; Asan Memorial College, Medavakkam; and other places protested and shouted slogans on Sunday, the police said. Tension prevailed as many attempted to walk out of the campus. More police personnel deployed to keep the situation under control.

N. Anand, Joint Resident Commissioner, Assam Bhavan in Chennai, and other senior officials reached the spot and held talks with the workers.

“Either arrange trains today or allow us to reach Assam by walk,” the protesters told him.

Plea for refreshments

The group at Dr. Ambedkar Law University demanded that it be allowed to go out for refreshments.

After assurance from senior officers, the migrant workers gave up their protest.

Mr. Anand told The Hindu: “We have given them shelter and food. We are in constant touch with Railways and will transport them in the earliest train to Assam.”

About, 2,700 migrant labourers from Assam still are staying in the city.

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Printable version | Jun 5, 2020 6:12:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/anxious-migrant-workers-hit-the-road-in-city/article31610396.ece

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